The Ascension expansion brought us Alpha clones on November 15, 2016. In the short time since Alpha clones have appeared in New Eden, the tone in the community has been remarkably positive. Everyone seems to be welcoming Alphas (or “Alpacas” as they were dubbed by Twitter’s #tweetfleet) with open arms and interested in helping them get a good start in EVE. Social media used by EVE players is abuzz with chatter about Alphas. Even posters on the r/eve subreddit – well known for being a tough crowd – have been positively lovable toward them. In-game channels are alive with new faces asking all kinds of questions that are being patiently answered by veteran players. Streamers are sharing their Alpha adventures live and engaging lots of new players in their chat channels. It seems we are all hungry for more people to share and play EVE Online with, whatever our reasons. More capsuleers means more sand churned up in the sandbox, leading to more stories and more content for everyone.
CCP Rise’s Alpha Clones presentation at EVE Vegas (October 2016) showed just how capable an Alpha clone can be, even with the limitations imposed by their clone state. He shared his experiences in taking an Alpha clone out for some PvP and then for some exploration. As I watched CCP Rise talk about his Alpha’s exploration experience, I started to fret a bit. Exploration is a really good starting career for a new player. My corp Signal Cartel focuses on exploration and we welcome new players. I had a momentary vision of an Alpha (“Alpaca”?) stampede heading straight for our doors, similar to Africa’s annual wildebeest migration. We had begun to prepare even before EVE Vegas but when I got home, we kicked that up a few notches: several new recruiters were added, Web-based resources to help with mentoring and community building were put in place, stocks of T1 exploration frigates and Alpha-friendly fits were acquired, and mountains of New Player Welcome Packages were assembled.
As predicted, a lot of Alphas have come our way. For the 30 days prior to Ascension (October 15 – November 14), we received 95 applications. Compare that to 152 applications in just the 11 days post-Ascension (November 15 – 26 as I write this), 128 of which have accepted their invites. With our typical low rejection/withdrawal rate (around 2-3%), I expect most of the outstanding invites will be accepted. There has been some attrition – about 6% who applied and joined between November 15 – 26 also left during that time. That is somewhat higher than usual for us but isn’t surprising with so many Alphas being new to the game. New players often cast about and try different things before they find just the right fit of both community and play style. But it’s not just new players swelling the ranks. We are also seeing a lot of players who’ve been away for years come back as Alphas to have a look around.
Although smaller than many new-player-friendly groups, Signal Cartel faces many of the same challenges that larger groups do from a significant influx of new player members. So far, it appears our prep has been sufficient to support them well. We’ve certainly adjusted our expectations upward for how much inventory we need to keep on hand as well as how much mentoring our more experienced members will called upon to provide. Whether fresh-faced newbro or returning vet, our goal is to make sure we do all we can to give every player who walks through our doors a reason to stay engaged in EVE Online, whether they choose to stay with us for a day, a month, or years.
As we dealt with Alpha prep and welcome, I got to wondering what other new-player-friendly groups had done to prep for Alphas and what impact they’ve seen from them since Ascension, so I reached out to a few of them.
Markonius Porkbutte from KarmaFleet said:
“We were fairly prepared for the release of Ascension and had stockpiled several caches of newbie supplies all around Delve, from pre-fit T1 frigates and industrial ships to PI starter kits and exploration supplies. We are doing okay with demand but the free-stuff channels are extremely active. Additionally, we’ve added additional recruiters to make sure the application process goes as quickly as possible at recruit.karmafleet.org. It should not take more than 24 hours to process an app from start to finish. As for what players do when they get to KarmaFleet, the sky’s the limit. Some are ganking with MINILUV while others are getting into industry things. We have had some just in this week alone make upwards of a billion+ ISK just by salvaging ratting sites!
“To give you idea of how much Ascension has affected us, in the month before the patch from October 1-31 we took on 273 pilots. On average, about half of these are “new” pilots while the remaining 50% tend to break down into alts or veteran players. From November 15 to today, we have taken on 275 pilots. In basically a week since Ascension came out, we’ve seen a 400% increase. Based on our current trends, we can estimate that a good chunk of that number are new pilots or returning pilots coming back as Alpha clones. Overall, we are very pleased with the positive energy Ascension has brought to the game and will do our best to make sure new players learn as much of the game as they desire.”
Fintarue, popular EVE streamer and CEO of the lowsec pirate group Rifterlings, shared this:
“We’ve been preparing for Alphas by setting up funding sources for FCs willing to run fleets consistently through the month, as well as theorycrafting newbie fits for a variety of different fleet styles. We’ve also been organizing a crew of members willing to teach wormhole combat sites and exploration as money-making activities for newbies.
“Living in low sec tends to be a different experience than null or high sec and funding is a bit trickier on one character. A majority of low sec organizations, that aren’t in Faction Warfare, require self-sufficiency and alt characters to make money. We’re wanting to teach new players that even as a pirate it is possible to make money and live in lowsec.”
Kalbuir Skirate, a Director from Pandemic Horde, commented:
“Pandemic Horde was lucky enough to be one of the few communities in EVE that have seen a surge of new players similar to what the Ascension patch is providing at the moment. World War Bee taught us a lot of important lessons in this regard, what to expect, how to prepare and how to deal with the constant chaos of having 100’s of new players join your community each day.
“We have gotten good at it, mostly due to having a solid group of helpers that put a lot of their free time and effort into logistics, distributing care packages, running classes but most importantly helping new players. The Newbean Initiative as we call this group is at the core of the success Horde has during these times. They are some of the most passionate and patient people I’ve encountered in EVE.
“Since Ascension, Pandemic Horde has gotten over 1500 new players, with between 100 and 200 members joining daily. To put that into context if we just look at just the first week we handed out over 11,000 fitted ships and more than 54,000 skillbooks.
“The surge of new players while hectic for those closely involved is amazing. The energy they bring to the game and their enthusiasm in which they take their first steps into PVP is what motivates us to do what we do on a daily basis. However more importantly they are the content creators of tomorrow, the alliance leaders of the next decade and the future of EVE.
“We hope to show every new player a glimpse of what EVE would be if you give it the proper shot it deserves.”
Dune Barphsaq, Director of Human Resources for EVE University (one of the game’s best-known new pilot training organizations), said:
“EVE is a constantly changing game, so any organization in New Eden needs to be constantly evolving, and that’s what we’ve been doing at EVE University. In preparation for the Alpha clone release, we recruited more staff to help shoulder the workload of bringing in and training these adorable new bros.
“We have made modifications to our recruitment process to reduce the time it takes for recruits to join us. During the first week of the expansion we saw a 350% increase in the number of pilots joining our corp, but thanks to the hard work of our staff of volunteers, we actually have shorter wait times to join. It currently takes just over a day to join.
“The teaching department has been hard at work filling our calendar with classes. Our FCs have been planning as many fleets as their schedules can handle and working to put together fleet comps compatible with Alpha clones. Our mentor department has seen a huge uptick in mentor requests, so much so that we’re having trouble finding enough mentors to keep up. Overall we are excited to see all these new players joining the game and can’t wait to see the content they bring with them.”
Cagali Cagali, CEO of Brave Newbies, Inc. [SB00N], said:
“Over in Brave we knew we were going to be swamped. We didn’t QUITE get our new recruitment tool up and running, but we first and foremost trained a bunch of new recruiters up. They were juuuust about up and running by the time the major influx occurred. Then it was a matter of making sure we had enough stock for our welcome packages, enough ships to hand out when they all charged in, and enough people who were interested in teaching them how to EVE!
“We barely made it: our market is straining under the lash, our recruiters are steaming through hundreds of apps a day, we’ve handed out about 3,000 skillbooks, 2,500 ships, and we’re having a blast. I did a little straw poll today. Out of 80 respondents, 30% of alphas had ALREADY switched to omega, 30% said they were ABOUT to subscribe, and 30% said that this was a crap game and they hated me, but you get the point!
“There are newbies everywhere, and we seem to have a whole new crop of innovators and leaders stepping up. It’s fantastic!”
All the activity and excitement surrounding the influx of Alphas seems to indicate that CCP has hit it out of the park with the Alpha clones concept. And so does the PCU. I wonder whether they have sore hands from all the high-fiving they must be doing while dancing for joy around the office, especially when this happened two days after Ascension:
We haven’t seen the PCU at that level for a long time.
The question is, will it last? It has often been said that EVE Online’s health relies on the social connections that new players make which cause them to stay in the game and go on to do amazing things with their friends. If that’s true, then the upswell of support and positivity we are seeing as the EVE community embraces Alphas seems to bode very well for the game’s future. Combine that with the obvious energy that CCP is pouring into EVE (new NPE, new features, balance iterations, and quality of life improvements, for example) and the future looks very bright indeed.